CONKLIN -- For the record, the Chenango
Forks football team wrapped up a perfect 8-0 regular
season Saturday with a 35-28 win at Susquehanna Valley.
But on a heavy-hearted senior day in
Conklin, under concrete gray skies that gave way late to
an October sun, that final score told so little of the
Trailing 35-0 less than four minutes into
the third quarter, the Sabers roared back to score 28
straight points, delighting the home crowd, answering a
halftime challenge and honoring the late father of
senior lineman Kane Kemberling.
"There's obviously no quit in Sus
Valley," Chenango Forks coach Kelsey Green said
afterward. "They played with a lot of pride and emotion.
It was a tough week for them over here, and especially a
tough day, and I think they did themselves proud."
While Forks tuned up for Saturday's
Section 4, Class B semifinal against Owego, the Sabers
arrived at their home field to learn Kemberling's
father, Konrad, had lost his two-year battle with cancer
earlier that morning.
An announcement of the news and a moment
of silence preceded the national anthem -- Kemberling
was in the lineup and on the field -- before Forks
cruised quickly to a 28-0 halftime advantage.
Halfback Joe Aston helped lead the
charge, wracking up 82 of his 122 rushing yards and the
first of his two touchdowns before halftime. Ryan
Freije, Jake Reynolds and Clint Cade also had first-half
touchdowns for the Blue Devils, who scored on each of
their first four possessions and took a 268-47 advantage
in total yards into halftime.
"Our mind-set at half ... we came in, our
coaches were talking to us, yelling and everything,"
said SV senior quarterback Eric Novobilski. "Basically,
they came in (with) about a five-minute speech from our
coach. And he left with: 'It's up to you guys, leave it
on the field or you leave it in here. ... You pick.' "
It was quite apparent which one they
Aston took a pretty option pitch from
Reynolds in from about 28 yards out, spotting Forks a
35-0 lead at the 3:41 mark of the third. But from there,
it was all Sabers.
Tyrone Smith scored from five yards out
to cut the lead to 35-6, and following an SV
interception, Chris Lewis barreled over the line to help
make it 35-14.
"That second half, I was just like, if we
don't have any heart and we can't play for Poppi, I
don't know what we're doing right now," Kemberling said.
"So I told them, let's do it for Poppi."
The SV passing game came alive, with
Novobilski going 5-for-7 for 74 yards after halftime.
The defense grabbed a second interception, and another
touchdown from Lewis suddenly left the 1-7 Sabers
trailing the second-ranked team in all of Class B 35-21
with 8 minutes left.
To be fair, some of the damage SV did in
the second half came against Forks' second stringers --
a fact Sabers coach Ray Haskell acknowledged afterward.
"I have to say, hats off to Kelsey Green
to understand the psyche of our team and get the second-teamers
in there, and give us a boost," Haskell said. "I just
want to say that to Kelsey Green and the Chenango Forks
staff, to have that kind of class they had today."
But with the score 35-21, the starters
returned for the Blue Devils, only to have SV rip a
fumble away, and march right back down against Forks'
first-team defense, cutting the deficit to 35-28 when
Novobilski spun across the goal line with 1:56 left.
The late drama would be short-lived,
though, as Chenango Forks corralled the ensuing onsides
kick, before Nick Stephens sealed the win with a big
8-yard run on third-and-three.
"I'm walking off with my head held high
today," Novobilski said. "Just because our mind-set at
half -- I came out with the team saying just what the
coaches said, basically. To leave it in the locker room
or leave it on the field.
"And we took that second option."
Kemberling plays for 'Poppi'
By Michael Sharp
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
CONKLIN -- As they battled back in the
second half of Saturday's 35-28 loss to visiting
Chenango Forks, the Susquehanna Valley football team
began using a new cheer.
"We were in the huddle," said senior
lineman Kane Kemberling, "all we were like was, 'One,
two three: Do it for Poppi.' "
Poppi is Kemberling's father, Konrad
Kemberling, who died Saturday morning after a two-year
battle with cancer.
Hours later, Kemberling was in the lineup
for the Sabers on an emotional senior day at Susquehanna
"Today, I figured dad just wanted me to
come out and play," he said afterward. "I wanted to play
Play he did, helping to bolster an
undermanned Susquehanna Valley line and helping to
inspire a big second-half rally.
The Sabers trailed 35-0 early in the
third quarter before scoring 28 straight points.
"I went to his house this morning," SV
coach Ray Haskell said. "I went there and I said, 'Kane,
I understand if you don't want to play.' He said, 'Oh,
I've got to play coach. I've got to play.'
"So, he wanted to play. And Joe Canini,
our other noseguard, he missed last week's game against
(Chenango Valley) because of a concussion, and he was
kind of iffy. We didn't want to play him too much, only
really one way today, because he was two-way starter. So
Kane played, and he gave it his best shot for his dad."
Late in the fourth quarter, once Chenango
Forks' Nick Stephens had sealed the victory by picking
up a key first down, Haskell called Kemberling out of
the game one last time.
He left to a nice ovation and was greeted
on the sideline with a long hug from his coach.
"I heard the news today when I was
leaving the house for the game," said SV senior
quarterback Eric Novobilski. "And all I could think was
God bless him if he plays.
"And Kane came today. He came in just
like everyone else, just silent. He was crying. And we
all were there for him. We said, 'Kane, whether you play
or not today, God bless you.'"
Novobilski added: "This one's for his